Benjamin Franklin didn’t have any concept of off-shore holdings, hedge funds or corporate tax evasion. His certainty about death and taxes is less of a lock these days, mainly due to the aforementioned financial fugivity, although it’s probably just a matter of time until we sync our souls into iConsciousness and live forever in a borg-esque electronic collective. On iCloud.
A one-off certainty was that the man taking up the reins at Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson was going to have a difficult time of things. Also certain is that David Moyes will not be afforded the same amount of time that Alex Ferguson had starting out in 1986. Whether or not he’s the right man for the job, there is major reconstruction ahead, and his predecessor must take some of the blame.
Man Utd’s transition from title winners to early season mediocrity can’t be seen as too much of a surprise. The cracks in the United side had been there for a while, gradually deepening, but constantly and cleverly papered over by Ferguson, who became something of the master plasterer in that regard towards the end of his reign. The groomed successors to the once great centre back pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand: Smalling, Evans, Jones, none of them have shown consistent quality needed to become a fixture in a top side. Last season’s finale, a 5-5 draw with West Brom where Jones and Evans started at centre back, was, in the words of the great Kent Brockman, a chilling vision of things to come for Man Utd fans.
For so long reliant on Scholes and Giggs to fill in in central midfield, now only new signing Fellaini brings any real impetus amongst a sea of drifters: Carrick, Anderson, Cleverley, an ailing Fletcher – there’s no real backbone, there. Not for a side with title winning aspirations. Elsewhere, Ashley Young continues to offer very little, Nani flatters to deceive while the hungry and hugely talented Wilfried Zaha gets no look in. No long term successor to Patrice Evra has been locked in, though that may change with a silly money move for Leighton Baines in January.
Keeping Wayne Rooney and keeping him motivated becomes an increasingly difficult task as each year passes. Van Persie has only 2 or 3 more years before his powers will start to wane. Hernandez is a good poacher, but doesn’t have the all round game that would make him a starter on a regular basis. Welbeck is by no means a proven striker.
None of this is really new. There is a distinct lack of quality in the United squad, and it has been that way for a while. Ferguson was able to hide the problems for so long because he was a great motivator and a great tactician. He made a fairly good side into title winners. But now with a more limited manager in charge, these problems have come to the fore. Today’s defeat to West Brom was no smash and grab fluke. The baggies were able to expose United’s weaknesses and fully deserved their win. The fluid movement and slick passing that led to the winning goal was a move of greater quality that anything the home side produced over the 90 minutes. There was no inevitability during injury time that Man Utd would equalise – not like in times past – West Brom stood firm all too easily.
Ferguson had to have been aware of the lack of true quality in his squad – why else would he have chosen Moyes to replace him, a man whose trademark has been getting the best out of less than stellar quality players? There isn’t much else on his CV that can have got him the job.
Man Utd have the financial clout to bring in better players, and there will surely be 2 or 3 fairly expensive signings in January. But whether the board of this multinational corporation will have the patience to stick with Moyes remains in some doubt. But the architect of all his problems was the man who chose him for the job. It will be of little consolation when he’s out the door.